Friday, September 16, 2011

"The first time...I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes." Song lyrics

"First Avenue" provides a remarkable and heartbreakingly realistic view of a section of downtown Seattle and describes a portrait of good and evil.

Officer Sam Wright finds a dead infant in a run-down hotel on First Avenue. Sam has seen many things but the image of this child who died of malnutricion is somehting he won't forget. He learns that the baby's mother, Alberta Sanchez, worked at a nearby Donut Shop but has disappeared.

As he begins the paperwork at police headquarters, he wonders about the hopelessness that seems to exist with the people he came in contact with at the hotel.

With the death of the baby weighing heavily on Sam's mind, he wants to search for answers about what happened.

There seems to be a connection with this Donut Shop and in an unusual coincidence, a young woman, not much more than a girl, comes to Seattle looking for Sam. She seems timid and when she stops in at the Donut Shop, she gets a job there.

Sam's favorite place on First Avenue is Silvie's Restaurant where he often stops in to relax when not on duty. Sam has seen the young woman at the Donut Shop and learned her name is Marie. He tells Sylvie about Marie and asks if Sylvie would be willing to hire her since Sam feels that the Donut Shop is unsafe.

The author's manner of writing is descriptive and, at times poetic, "She laughed for a moment, but her laughter startled her as though waking from a dream. He watched her eyes turn sad."

I was moved by Lowen Clausen's characters with some of the coldhearted criminals so well described that I wanted to express some anger with them. At the same time, There are a number of well meaning people, including Sam, attempting to make life a little better with their compassionate manner and desire to help.

This is a wonderful and uplifting adventure. I enjoyed the setting, the characters who came to life in the pages and the story itself. "First Avenue" is written by a former Seattle police officer and his descriptions are so well done that's it's as if we're sitting in the passenger seat of his police cruiser watching events unfold.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Let your heart guide you. It whispers, so listen closely." The Land Before Time

In Cape Cod, Michael Decastro, former public defender and current fisherman, gets a message from Tran, Tuki Aparacio's half-brother, that she's in Ho Chi Minh City and in trouble.

The reader learns of Tuki Aparacio, the daughter of a black American soldier and Vietnamese woman, who is attractive with her dark skin and Vietnamese looks. She's a nightclub singer. In addition, she is worried that The Dragon Lady is looking for her and the Hart of Warriors, a ruby worth millions, that Tuki is in possession of.

I began this book anticipating a suspenseful thriller but found that the cardboard characters had no appeal to me.

It is obvious that the author spent a great deal of time and labor to write the story in so much detail but much of the action defied logic and moved around too much with action going from Cape Cod, to Saigon, to North Vietnam and then to the mountains of Vietnam.

In my questioning of the action, the protagonist, Michael Decastro, had just been jailed in Cape Cod, for a possible suicide attempt while drinking too much. He drops everything, and travels to Vietnam.

Michael asks his father to join him. His father, Caesar Decastro, served in Vietnam as an MP. Against all odds, forty years after the war, he finds and reconnects with the bar girl he lived with while in Vietnam. What is more, she still loves him.

I also found it difficult to see the young Tuki in possession of a ruby worth millions while she has very little in other assets.

Told in the third person, it was difficult to get a feel for the character's motivation and to know what was in their hearts.

Lastly, I found the antagonist, The Dragon Lady to be too unpredictable. At times she would be tender toward Tuki but then she would strike out against her or do something to Tuki's brother. How she came into all the information about Michael's movements while in Vietnam was also not well enough explained to me.

Conceptually, the idea of a woman from Vietnam falling in love with a man in Cape Cod and needing his help could be of interest but other details of the story when added together made the story less than it could have been.

2 stars moving up to 2 1/2.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Sometime around midnight lose yourself for a minute or two." Song Lyrics

"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is really a novel about the city of Savannah, its people and history.

"Esquire" writer John Berendt is in Savannah, Georgia, to write a story about the extravagant holiday party that Jim Williams hosts yearly.

Williams is one of the true characters of the area. He's an antique dealer and was influential in the restoration of Savannah's historic district. He lives in the family home of songwriter, Johnny Mercer.

There are a number of truly unique personalities populating the story. The mournful Luther Driggers is an eccentric who was an inventor whose ideas never made him any money and is said to carry a quantity of poison with him. He also plays with houseflies.

Serina Dawes is a friend of Luther and a wealthy woman who enjoys her life of leisure. There is also the notable character Lady Chablis, a cross dressing nightclub singer who has a major role in the story.

Jim Williams is accused of murdering his companion Danny Hansford who is known for his drug dependency and explosions of temper.

Berendt lays out the scenario slowly, perhaps, in comparison to the pace of life in the city. We learn of the history of the city, some of the facts in the redevelopment and the mix of interesting people who inhabit the area.

It is also interesting to see the society members who attend William's annual party and how their friendship and attitude changes when Williams is accused but before any verdict of murder or innocence is proclaims.

I enjoyed the book but thought the pace was a bit slow. Berendt brings Savannah to life and allows the reader to form their own opinion about the lifestyle of the inhabitants and what goes on at midnight, in this garden of good and evil.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"The deepest need for men is not food and is God"


Harlan Coben is departing from his normal adult fiction to provide an entertaining Young Adult story.

Fifteen-year-old Mickey Bolitar was sent to live with his Uncle Myron. Mickey has undergone a sad time period where his father died in a car crash and his mother isn't handling it well and is a patient in a clinic.

Mickey is one of the new kids at the high school and meets another new student, Ashley. They become friends but suddenly, she's not at the school and a teacher tells Mickey that he's received a note that she probably wouldn't be back.

With the weight of the permanent loss of his father and the current loss of his mother-at the clinic, he feels that he just can't bear the loss of one more person who was close to him, therefore, he wants to investigate why Ashley has suddenly and without word to anyone else, vanished.

In his investigation, he is aided by two outcasts from his high school who he as befriended. Spoon, the nerdy kid who is the janitor's son and the eccentric and humorous character, Ema. She's an overweight student who is a goth follower with shoe polish black hair, arm tattoos, black clothes and pale skin all bundled up with a sense of humor that makes her endearing and makes the reader curious to learn more about her.

Mickey also has dealings with a mysterious elderly neighbor known as Bat Lady who makes an announcement about Mickey's father.

With a wonderful author like Harlan Coben, the story is, as the reader would expect, well done, entertaining and an easy read.

Mickey Bolitar is a refreshing character who deserves his place as a worthwhile subject in the young adult literature of today.

Giveaway for this book begins: Sept 13th and continues through Oct 3.
Giveaway rules:
1. be a follower of this blog
2. be a friend on Shelfari if possible
3. use above link and go to Amazon review and indicate "YES" review helpful
4. Under comments list your email address for contact purposes and that you have indicated the review was helpful.
5. US and Canada only
6. This is a advanced reader's copy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act" Orwell


Harlan Donnally was a former San Francisco Police Dept. detective who was retired on a disability after being shot on the job.

At the start of the story, he promises a dying friend to find his friend's younger sister, who his friend placed in a home when she was age five. Tragically, Harlan finds that the girl, Anna, was murdered years ago and her alleged killer, Charles Brown, was never prosecuted due to being incompetent.

As Donnally continues to search for answers, he finds that there are people who would like to keep Anna's killing closed and prevent him from finding the answers. However, he persists. He needs to find out what happened in the 1970s in the Berkley community with the anti government, anti war movement.

Donnelly feels that he's on a mission to help his deceased friend who thought he was leaving his little sister in safety only to have her killed and no one punished for the crime.

Donnally is able to locate the alleged killer, Charles Brown, and bring him to court only to have someone hire a wealthy attorney claiming that Brown is the real victim. This makes Donnelly wonder if someone else is hiding behind the incompetent man's craziness.

We learn more of Donnelly's past and realize what motivates him in this search for the truth. His search takes him to places that neither the reader nor Donnelly could have foreseen. This freshness in plot is dramatically described and we see Donnelly as the type of investigator who doesn't give up and employs some creative measures to get answers and deliver justice that has been a long time in being served.

1. be a follower of this blog
2. follow on shelfari if you are on that site
3. use above link and see my review on Amazon, read review and at the end, indicate "YES" review helpful.
4. under comments of this review, indicate you wish to be entered in the giveaway, give your email address for notification and indicate you have stated that the review was helpful.
5. Giveaway runs through Sept 16th
6. U.S. and Canadian residents only, sorry, postage.

Good luck and have fun.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What is in the marrow is hard to take out of the bone.

Martin Arrowsmith enters medical school in the early nineteen hundreds in a place called Winnemac.

The reader sees the difficulty of attening medical school and dealing with medical and social issues. Martin goes through medical school with the ardor of a man pursing his lifelong dream. When he takes bacteriological, he imagines that he's in the position of his instructor Professor Max Gottleib and can't imagine that life could be better.

Working so hard, there were times when he needed a change of pace and he visited a city called Zenith where he met Madeline Fox who was working on her grad school courses and seemed to be searching for a husband. Eventually they become engaged and soon after Madeline proceeds to attempt to change Martin's habits and mannerisms to the man she would like him to be.

Then he's sent to Zenith General Hospital where he meets a nursing student Leora Tozer. They become attracted to each other and have more in common than Martin and Madeline. They also become engaged and Martin has the two women meet and tells them he's engaged to both. Madeline is condescending toward Leona and disparages her coming from a country place like North Dakota. This seems to sway Martin to Leora and so, Madeline leaves and wished them a good life.

We follow Martin's life as he finishes Med school and moves to Leona's home to set up a family practice. It is interesting to see small town community and ideas about alcohol, gambling, pharmacical drugs, and medicine in genera. Martin tries to fit in with the farm community and meddling family of Leora but finally it is too much and he decides to move to the city where he will have more freedom.

His true love is really in research and eventually takes a position there. During the WWI he and joins the military and works in research about medical conditions that people in the military might face. This devotion is good to read and he tries to write some research papers, eventually working with bubonic plague.

Well written and a good description of a piece of America in the early nineteenth century.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"There is no witness so terrible and no accuser so our conscience" Sophocles

With the bad economy, Mickey Haller has had to search for clients and resorted to working in home foreclosures.

He longs to get back to the high profile cases and back to the courtroom where he's at his best. Then he gets a call from one of his foreclosure clients that she has been accused of murdering the banker who headed the mortgage loan division responsible for her foreclosure.

Since the client has no money, he gets her to sign an agreement giving him the rights to a future book or movie. This would enable her to pay for his services and that of his staff.

A complication occurs when the client is bailed out by Herbert Dahl who has also gotten her to sign a movie agreement with him. Dahl is a slimy person who puts together deals for movies.

Mikey's deal predated Dahl's and there are a number of antagonistic meetings trying to get this resolved. In the meantime, Mickey is getting a case together to defend the client, Lisa Trammel.

As the reader might expect with Michael Connelly, the novel is suspensefully written and the court scenes are like a tightly contested tennis match with one side winning points and then the other side countering. It is as if we are members of the jury and seeing if Mickey will be able to get his client proven innocent of this murder.

Mickey Haller is an excellent character who shows the difficulty of earing a living and having to put up with difficult clients. In the past, he's managed his business and his family life with constant emotional and financial struggles that are common to many of us and so we relate to him and wish him to succeed.

Another enjoyable story with Mickey Haller and a conclusion that packs the punch of a game winning grand slam home run.

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